WHAT’S IN YOUR BACKGROUND?

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“You can only watch TV on the weekends,” I remind my little one after school.  “Okay,” she sighs and she begins to play with her blocks.

I give myself a mental pat on the back for sticking to my guns.  TV is not good for her little brain.  I would much rather she engage in creative play or a learning activity.

Ha, little do I know.  What I thought to be minimal TV exposure is not so “minimal” in reality.  Yes, she is reading or coloring, but the TV is often playing in the background.  Whether it is CNN or Project Runway or Indian soap operas, the TV is literally “on” for hours.

A recent study showed that kids in the U.S. are exposed to about four hours of background TV.  Add that to the 2 hours of TV kids watch actively.  Six hours — that is equal to the time they spend learning in school.

In my practice, I always talk about the health and behavioral problems caused by kids watching too much TV.   But, what about us parents?  Could our media addiction be harming our children indirectly?  My parental intuition says, “Without a doubt.”

What are your thoughts on this disturbing statistic?

SKIN CARE AU NATUREL

So I am wheeling the shopping cart around Target and I groan inwardly when I hear, “Mommy, can I have the Dora shampoo?”  I mumble an excuse like, “that’s for big kids.”  Whenever I see a product with a cartoon on it, it is hard for me to trust whether it is actually “good” for my kid.  I know you can’t judge a book by the cover, but simple ingredient comparison always leads me to the non-cartoon non-fuss products.

So which skin products should we choose for the kids?  The answer is simple.  Find the products that are the most natural which means fragrance free, alcohol free, dye and color free .  I find myself using organic and hypoallergenic products for everybody at home, especially the kids.

We all love the wonderful “baby” fragrance that so many lotions and bath products have.  Umm.. sorry to tell you this but the fragrances are pretty drying and sensitizing to the skin.  I see “camomile and lavender” in baby products all the time and I find that some (not all) kids can become sensitive to them with repeated use over time.

I know that babies and kids love baths, but they don’t need baths daily.  How many babies do we see rolling around in the dirt?  Preserve their natural skin oils by not soaking them daily in the tub.  Just wipe them down with a wet towel and skip one or two days.

I know bubble baths are fun, but they are super irritating to their little behinds.  Avoid them at all costs.

A lot of the creams/lotions that say “For dry skin or eczema” actually contain alcohol in the ingredients.  So read the labels.

The skin is the largest organ system in the body.  I think the more natural non-processed products you can find, the better…and smarter.  What do you use at home for your child’s skin?

TWEEN SENSE

“Oh… I really hate middle school.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear this from parents. Why such strong feelings? If you have a middle schooler at home, you probably know why. The mean kids, the hormones, the changes…the list goes on and on. In the tender tween age of 11 to 14, middle schoolers are probably the most confused age group on Earth. Just like toddlers, until you understand their psyche, you cannot get through to them. So, how can you help? Just understand them.

1. Know that they are going to be more and more self-centered. They cannot help it. Preoccupation with the mirror, their clothes, their friends, and their things is the norm now. Parents, try to find subtle ways to discuss inner beauty with them. When it comes to body image, use words like “healthy,” not pretty or skinny. Help them understand that many children do not have the advantages they have. Perhaps they can volunteer with friends for a local charity.

2. Gone are the days when you were the “cool” mom and dad. Now, you are just barely acceptable. Accept it. You don’t need to be their best friend anymore. That’s fine, but perhaps you can subtly direct them to friends who would be a good influence.

3. They blow things up (in their mind). A run-of-the-mill comment or situation can magnify and become a big deal to them. Their emotions are not in their control. Step into their shoes, understand the breadth of their feelings, and teach them coping skills for the kind of situations they deal with socially.

4. They are dreamers. They are doodlers. Their head is in the clouds. That’s understandable, since they are trying to figure out who they are. Parents, encourage their imagination and creativity. Let them dream big.

Finally, understand that this is a stage of life. With time, their thought process and mind will mature and become more reasonable. In fact, in a few years, you will have a good laugh about all their middle school drama. So parents, don’t hate middle school. Be ready for it.

STRANGER ANXIETY: It’s my party and I’ll cry if you don’t hold me!!

Full of giddy anticipation, my parents flew across the continent. Delayed flight.. Bad food.. Fear of flying.. they did not care. They were seeing their grandchild and it was her first birthday.

Upon their arrival, the birthday girl took one look at them, her lower lip curled, eyes welled up with tears, and she began to bawl. It did not get any better during the two weeks they spent with me. I could sense their disappointment, but they kept saying, “Don’t worry. That happens.” She spent most of her birthday clinging to my leg and avoiding all of the guests. Birthday cake …forget about it..she wanted nothing to do with it.

I knew she was at the peak of stranger anxiety and there was no way around it. During this phase, a kid feels that mom and dad (especially mom) are their safety net. Anybody else, she feels, is someone who can take their parents away from them. From a child development perspective, stranger anxiety signals the beginning a basic understanding of relationships and family. The more she sees someone on a regular basis, like a nanny or grandparents, the less anxiety she will have to them.

But what do you do when family members visit? Or at birthday parties? The key is to understand the child’s plight. You are her safety net. So reassure her that you will hold on to her until she feels safe. Ask your family members to not talk or smile or gesture to the child, until she is ready to look and talk to them.

If you are always entertaining people at your home or meeting friends for playdates with your child, she will probably develop less stranger anxiety. Having bad stranger anxiety does not mean your child will be an introvert for life. Lastly, remember, this phase will go away around age two on its own. All she needs is reassurance of your presence and your love.

Did your little one have any stranger anxiety? And what did you do about it?

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